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Wednesday, 10 June 1914

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - The subject before us is no doubt very important. I have listened with great interest to the Minister, and to Senators Rae and Gardiner, and I must confess that we have not had much light or leading from any of them. No doubt, the position is a difficult one, but, in my opinion, sympathy with young lads who refuse to take part in this training is largely misplaced.

Senator Rae - There is no sympathy with the lads, but denunciation of barbarous punishment.

Senator STEWART - We have had much talk about " barbarous punishment," and, perhaps, solitary confinement is out of date; but what is to be done with these lads ? If I had my way, I would take them down to Port Melbourne, or some other port, put them on a steamer, and send them to another country. If they are not prepared to take part in the work of defence, Australia ought to have no room for them. If there were a dozen men cast adrift in an open boat, and one, though able and willing, refused, on conscientious grounds, to do any rowing or other work, the others would be perfectly justified in dropping him into the sea.

Senator Rae - They could stop his rations.

Senator STEWART - There might be no rations; we have all read of cases where even the men thmselves had to form part of the rations. If lads are allowed to shirk, there is a possibility of the canker eating into the very heart of our national system of defence. If ninety-nine boys see that the hundredth boy is permitted to escape training, they very reasonably will ask themselves why he is allowed to sit in the shade while they are drilling in the sun.

Senator Rae - We are not proposing to allow any to sit in the shade.

Senator STEWART - I do not know what honorable senators are proposing; but they have expressed great dissatisfaction at the action of the Government. Senator Gardiner offers an alternative which might be tried. I have no desire that these lads should be punished harshly, but something must be done to make them see that it is right and proper for them to bear their part in preparing for the defence of the country. With regard to those who profess conscientious objections to fighting in defence of their property, I have this to say, that I have known such apostles of peace and harmony to be the most rabid defenders of proprietary rights in the Law Courts. To be logical, they ought, when struck on the one cheek, to turn the other, but they do not do so, and their conscientious objections to fighting apply only when they think that their skins are likely to be in danger. I have no sympathy with such persons. The best thing to do with them, if it were possible, would be to send them all to some other country, if one could be found, where their ideas would be more appreciated.

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